Slickness….in praise of it?

Dark Glasses, dark birdSometime ago, I happened to end up at a group event, which regularly takes place at a hotel in Karachi and at various times occurs in (maybe) 200 other cities of the world. These people worship the art of slickness and they come together to train and improve their method of delivery of words. They belong to a club spread worldwide, which I shall not name here, dedicated to improving and standardizing our speaking skills.

Their objectives were fairly easy to grasp. One of our biggest fears, is being able to speak up in public. Faced with an audience most of us descend into jelly feet. So, this club coaches a standard method of delivery and trains participants, so that they can express themselves, especially in a pressure environment. This management of speech will by its very practice transcend into daily lives, work and otherwise, and the subjects shall be able to command respect by being confident, articulate, delivering great presentations and talks. The more confident and articulate you become, the better the imagery. Soon you will progress in life. In praise of slickness!!!

To be fair, I was welcomed with open arms at this august gathering. There were some veterans who had been attending for years.  However, as the evening progressed, I found myself more and more uncomfortable and out of sorts with these ladies and gentlemen, even though they were very courteous and treated me with utmost care and respect – they probably saw a new corporate member, who could perhaps further their club objectives.

The problem was that I belong to a totally different ilk and therefore should have been the last person to enter that room. My filters are way on the other side of the room. True, in my personal experience, I have come across many managers who articulate arguments brilliantly and are able to influence people. But now, I stick my neck out to go further…. the fact is, I have discovered through most of my career, that the people who articulate well, are generally the best showmen/women and therefore they tend to speak with a forked tongue. Also they tend to take the least responsibility and mostly are articulate individuals and not team players. Therein lies the problem.

Now you would say, what a horrible generalization…but within the confines of the Bell Curve, this is true. That 70% under normal distribution are just such people. Spare a thought, for the thousands of hours I (and people like me) have sat and listened to beautiful articulation, great presentations and known that the whole presentation is a put on job. Worse still, most people will nod and smile and go out of the room, forgetting the substance of the presentation. So all that will remain is the imagery and the delivery of promises made will be forgotten, not to ever occur at all. In a few years this individual will have progressed to great positions, thanks to his/her articulation skills. Such a travesty!

So, once I reached a position of reasonable influence, I promised myself never will I let such people influence me. Therefore, when a candidate walks in for an interview, what to look for? Look for the reality within the person. Is he/she artificial, the false smiles and the lack of pauses (the ‘umms’ and the ‘ahhhs’). They tell the reality! Beware,  anyone who answers smoothly and without thought pauses. Next you look for truth, passion and backbone. These are all the things, that slickness does not inculcate, but actually make a human a great manager – someone who will say less, deliver more and when the chips are down, will stand up and be counted.

In case you all think this is too judgmental…

Sahih Bukhari and Muslim report that Anas said ‘The Prophet’s (saw) talk was precise clear, and succinct without undue elaboration’

Sahih Bukhari Volume 003, Book 041, Hadith Number 591 and

Sahih Bukhari Volume 002, Book 024, Hadith Number 555

Narrated By Al-Mughira bin Shu’ba : The Prophet (saw) said, ” …. and Allah has hated for you (1) vain, useless talk, or that you talk too much about others, (2) to ask too many questions….

I rest my case!!

* The picture is taken from a free picture site. The owner is “Psyberartist”.

The Institute of Lying










Recently, during the Republican Convention, Paul Ryan made the customary speech of an accepting Vice Presidential candidate of GOP. Apparently it was a rousing speech and the Republican faithful got up and applauded frequently. It all went down very well, with lots of back-slapping and since the convention, even a doyen of anti-conservatism has said that he thinks Romney-Paul will win. I am speaking of none other than Michael Moore, who seems to carry the burden of American conscience.

Yet, Republican delegates came out after Paul’s speech and said ‘he was lying’. Post the speech, even the press said he was lying, the internet reports said as much, as did the bloggers and so am I telling you, “he was lying”. Now look at the polls and Romney-Paul look the favourites to win the elections, being 4 points ahead and with more money to spend!

Perturbed! Disturbed!  Democracy? Value system? Good, bad, evil? This world has changed. It seems it is now about scoring points, creating perceptions and not about right or wrong. Somewhere, someplace in the vast confines of this dimension, Iblis must be roaring his head off.

So now imagine my distress when head on heels of this report, I come across a blog by a well known personality, who interviewed the leader of the ‘Institute of Lying’. Yes you beauty! The Institute of Lying!!  We hope no institute of this kind exists, but just the whole interview made me boil over…it did not come across as a satire at all, because it seemed so real… In this interview by Barry Levinson, the so called head describes how Truth is really old fashioned, one dimensional and does not allow for creativity. Lying on the other hand is creative – naturally – and allows for many versions, is successful and adds different dimensions to life. So there I was very unhappy, but then realised that the satire was portraying an unfortunate reality on the ground.

This was like a bolt of lightning and therefore this blog.

I have seen this world move…people my age are probably unique in all the ages of written history. In a 50 year period they have gone from mainly ‘gadha garis’ to nano technology. We have more or less adjusted to that….but how do you adjust to this one. The value system is so upside down, that it is bewildering. The world today is pragmatic and accepts lying as a means to an end. Forever, the press is making allegations with no basis of proof. The politicians are doing the same to each other and the con-artists are prospering. It is also easy to get on the net and lie about people.

My own experience in work life is that in the last decade, the numbers of people who lie and the frequency have increased – this is in different countries and cultures, so is not localized. We have gone from the so-called white lie, “Tell the caller, X is busy”, to now using lying as a legitimate tool. I have come across senior people, who would lie in a negotiation, or to obtain a promotion. Executives blame others for errors to take pressure off themselves. Generally these numbers are an ever increasing minority and therefore something to worry about for the future.

So why is this happening?  Are we not being taught at home and in school not to lie? The people lying are well educated and generally rich people, so security in Maslow’s terms is not an aspect either. Compare that to the image of the British nobility stiff upper lip non-lying values of a century ago.  I think we are suffering from the MAD magazine White sheep/Black sheep syndrome. We started with one black sheep and 99 white sheep, soon enough the trends and weight and flows of numbers have forced change and today there are 99 black sheep and one white sheep.

So here and now, I would like to do my duty and tell people why it’s wrong to lie. Maybe we can start a non-lying movement. An Institute of Truth.

Firstly religious verdict. The Prophet Muhammad (saw) in a Hadith in Sahih Bukhari describes the characteristics of a Munafiq.

1.    When given a trust he betrays it.
2.    When he speaks he lies
3.    When he promises he breaks it
4.    When he argues he is unjust

Several times in the Qur’an, such as in Sura 3, the munafiqoon are described as saying with their lips what is not in their hearts – ie lying.

So all this lying signifies that the liar is a munafiq. No light matter, as people would remember Allah’s instruction in the Quran is that a funeral prayer should not be offered on a munafiq. Very serious business indeed!

Since in today’s world it is fashionable to not take the religious argument, I just want to convey the simple logic of why lying would be bad. Once one has lied, the normal barriers of good have been breached. The dyke is breached and we can go ahead and let the floods take over. Where is the next hurdle? If I can lie successfully, then what stops me committing any wrong and lying about it? That is the dangerous mentality which prevails inside the mind. I am now on the skids to being Machiavelli.

On the receiving end, a person who has lied will get caught sooner or later. The same mentality applies then. If someone is lying to me, why should I trust him/her about anything. There have been people who have lied to me in my career and I can tell you, it is impossible to trust them again. You might work with them, but trust them, no. Not a good place to be at all for anyone?